Entrepreneur or intrapreneur- what’s the difference and does it matter?

Entrepreneur or intrepreneur

Do you wonder if your an entrepreneur or intrapreneur ? As a researcher and author on enterprise, I am often asked doesn’t that just mean business?  Once I explain that I teach both employed and unemployed people how to be more enterprising, they say “Right, like an employee is enterprising?”  But I assure you I meet lots of enterprising employees.  Recently someone asked me, “So you speak about intraprenuership, what’s the difference between an entrepreneur and intrapreneur?”  Jokingly I said “One does it in a suit, the other in jeans.”

However, that joke possibly isn’t that far out.  I know when I was employed as an intrepreneur for a year I would wear suits and play the part of staff member. Whereas in the two decades I have been my own boss I wear what I like, including jeans. But I guess what everyone really wants to know is are they different in what they do?  Well, firstly let’s get a few things clear about what enterprise is.

Enterprise is…

We often use the word ‘enterprise’ to describe a business. However ‘enterprise’ can also be used to describe a new project or idea which requires energy and enthusiasm to drive it forward. In its original form it comes from the French work ‘entreprendre,’ meaning to undertake or take in hand. So whilst yes, enterprise can mean a business set up for profit, it can also mean an activity which by its very nature is enterprising.

Therefore enterprise can be used to describe taking ideas or undertaking projects or even to take in hand problems and projects to ensure they are driven forward. Within my work of “Enterprise Within™” it is considered as any activities which can benefit the organisation to move forward, particularly when they consider market need, client need and benefit to the organisation’s stability.

Entrepreneurship is…

The design, development, launching and running of a new business. On the whole this is for personal financial gain (well, that’s the plan) and may ebb down alone or with others either in partnership or who are employed by the main entrepreneur.   Whilst the entrepreneur takes the financial risks, overall control and management, they also are able to use the enterprise for their own purpose. In recent years, “entrepreneurship” has been extended from its origins in for-profit businesses to include social entrepreneurship, where the aim of the business is one of social benefit.  This may or may not include making a profit but could be about making a profit which is re-invested into the business or shared to others who need support.

Whilst we often refer to an entrepreneur as someone who is willing to take risks or be self-motivated the qualities required for success include those of developing ideas, custom focus and resilience.

Intrapreneurship is…

Much of the research, work and development around enterprise and staff engagement within organisations is referred to as intrapreneurship. In order to consider the whole organisational approach we need to look at intrapreneurship in its true form. This phrase was coined back in 1987 by Gifford Pinchot III and Elizabeth Pinochot in their paper ‘Intra-corporate entrepreneurship’ and was further used by academic, Howard Edward Haller.

Intrapreneurship is also defined by Pinchot (1984) as taking on responsibility for activities which are innovative in any way and create a new approach within an organisation. In addition, companies support intrapreneurs financially and offer access to their resources in the hope that this is repaid when their ideas are developed into income-generating products or services.

On the whole intrapreneurship is considered to be where a person within a larger organisation takes on personal responsibility (either by self-selection or selection from others) for taking an idea and ensures it is followed through with the fundamental potential of it adding to the bottom line of the organisation. In other words, adding increased income or profitability. This is often through taking risk or innovative approaches that are not normally considered. Much of the intraprenerial activities taking place are implemented through employee initiatives within larger organisations, with the aim of developing a profitable venture.

Various organisations advocate the use of intrapreneurship and consider it to be part of moving themselves forward. On the whole intrapreneurs are considered to be people who come up with ideas, work on them and roll them out to make money for the organisation whom they work for, rather than for themselves.

More and more companies are taking this idea on board, seeing it as a way of making use of their talent and giving them the freedom to experiment without the need to leave the organisation. For many staff members it allows them the freedom to be innovative and feel they work for themselves in a new business start-up, but without the risk element of going it alone.

Need to know more about enterprise, intrapreneurship and entrepreneurship? I’m always happy to be interviewed or brought in to run courses. Just call me on 02921 175020

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